Midland Metro Acquires Financing for Tram Improvements

Midland Metro, a tram system operated by National Express, a subsidiary of Travel West Midlands, has been granted a £130 million package for completing developmental milestones.

The company has entered into an agreement with Centro, a UK based organisation operating bus and rail transport, for a partnership to implement various improvements for its passengers.

The initiatives for better customer service include increased frequency and capacity with the addition of 20 new, larger trams, introduction of Smartcard technology, upgrading of existing tram stops, ways to deal with metal and cable theft, and offering more Park and Ride facilities to commuters.

Centro chairman, Cllr John McNicholas, said, ‘The Metro is the region’s most reliable and punctual form of public transport and already offers passengers an excellent service.

Yet this new agreement cements the commitment of our two organisations to bring passengers even more benefits and to work closely together as the system undergoes some exciting changes, not least the return of trams to the streets of Birmingham.’

The new fleet of larger trams will be introduced into service in 2014 and will increase the frequency of the service to 10 trams an hour during the day. The 20 new trams and upgrade of the stations will cost around £128 million.

Peter Coates, the managing director of National Express UK Bus, said, ‘This new agreement will see big customer experience improvements to an already industry leading service. It is also great news for the region with 1,300 extra jobs being created and a £50million a year boost to the economy.’

British Airways provides iPads to pilots for improved efficiency

UK based British Airways is offering iPads to its 3,600 pilots to improve its customer service.

The airline is investing around £5bn on new products, and equipping its ground and flying crew with iPads as part of the initiative to increase operational efficiency.

The iPads are intended to offer pilots access to real-time operational data, which can be shared with ground crew and which will allow pilots to plan efficient flights before departure.

The iPad connectivity will also allow the airline’s pilots to provide passengers with more accurate flight information, as well as offering them a more customised flight service by being aware of their preferences.

The airline director of flight operations, Captain Stephen Riley, said, ‘As pilots we want to deliver a safe and memorable experience for each and every British Airways customer, on every single flight.

The iPads will help us to achieve this goal by giving us the means to provide a more personalised service and share more timely flight information with our customers and colleagues.’

Meanwhile, the airline is gearing up to manage its busiest day of the season tomorrow, December 21, when around 111,000 travellers are expected to board flights for their Christmas journeys. The airline also expects Christmas day to be busy, with around 31,000 people scheduled to fly to the airline’s various destinations.

Between today and January 7, 2013, around 1.6 million people are expected to fly with the airline from its network of 175 global destinations, and the airline expects to serve its passengers around 60,000 mince pies on long-haul flights from Heathrow Airport, topped with one tonne of single cream.

Car rental companies step in to ease Christmas travel woes

For those travellers concerned with holiday travel problems in the UK during the Christmas period, reassurances are being offered by the UK’s car rental services, which are available to bridge the gap left by scheduled maintenance work on the rail service, and strike action called by ASLEF, the London Underground drivers’ union.

Car rental brokers, Holiday Autos, said, ‘We understand how expensive travel can be. Whether for work or leisure, transport is becoming one of the most expensive outgoings in many households so the government’s recent u-turn on an increase in fuel prices is a welcome one.

However, the Christmas and New Year holidays are the one time of year when friends and family should be able to get together and we are committed to finding drivers the best deals to make sure that doing that doesn’t break the bank.’

Previously, Heathrow Express, an express train service from London Heathrow Airport to London Paddington station, had stated on its website that, ‘Due to essential Crossrail improvement works, Heathrow Express will not be running any services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport on December 25 and 26.

Our inter terminal transfer service between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Terminals 1 & 3 will continue to run in line with the planned timetable. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.’

With regard to its strike action on Boxing Day, ASLEF commented, ‘The union is being blamed for taking industrial action on London’s tube network on Boxing Day. The real fault lies with a management that has failed both us and the public.’

The car rental companies have urged their customers to book early to avoid being disappointed.

Irish government unwilling to back Ryanair’s Aer Lingus bid

The government of Ireland has expressed its unwillingness to support a bid by Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, to acquire its rival Irish airline, Aer Lingus.

Ryanair, which owns a 29.8 percent stake in Aer Lingus, has previously offered EUR694 million for the remaining Aer Lingus stock. The Aer Lingus’ board subsequently rejected this on the basis of it being an insufficient offer. The airline is now willing to offer around 40 routes from major airports in Ireland to other airlines in return for the acquisition, as part of a comprehensive remedies package. The European Commission will take the final decision.

The Irish government, which owns a 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, has announced its decision to oppose the takeover bid by Ryanair.

A statement by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Ireland, said, ‘Earlier today, the Cabinet considered the sale of the State’s 25 percent shareholding in Aer Lingus.

The Government remains committed to the sale of the stake in Aer Lingus at the right time under the right conditions.

However, the Government is not prepared to support any offer that would significantly undermine connectivity or competitiveness for Ireland.

Based on what is now in the public domain, the Ryanair remedies package does not satisfy our concerns about connectivity, competitiveness or employment for Ireland.

Obviously, the European Commission will make its own decision in its own time, but we do not see any benefit to Ireland in what has been reported.’

Earlier Ryanair said, in its own statement, ‘This comprehensive remedies package includes a number of new airline bases in Dublin, new entrant competitors on over 40 routes to/from Dublin, Cork and Shannon, as well as specific competition solutions that guarantee increased price competition on routes to and from Ireland.

Ryanair expects that the commission will shortly market test this transformational remedies package, and remains confident that its offer for Aer Lingus will receive competition clearance following any fair assessment by the commission.’